Willamette River Water Trail

Paddle, float, and camp 187 miles through the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley

It’s not an exaggeration to say that without the Willamette River, the valley that shares its name would look far different today. It was the river’s fertile farmlands and floodplains, after all, that made it such an appealing home for generations of Native Americans and Oregon Trail emigrants. And easy river access has long made it possible to travel around Eugene, Albany, Independence, and Salem—all cities through which the Willamette River flows today.

The Willamette River isn’t the shipping channel it once was—but crops grown in the surrounding valley continue to reach consumers around the world today. And, not for nothing, but the river is a vibrant source of recreation for countless locals and visitors all year long.

Fed by mountain tributaries south of Eugene, the Willamette River flows northward for nearly 200 miles before emptying into the Columbia River near Portland. Along the way, it passes through cities large and small, boasts dramatic wildlife viewing opportunities, offers all manner of outdoor recreation, and showcases the natural beauty of the iconic Willamette Valley. Albany is centrally located on the river and many popular section itinerary options pass through or near Albany.

And you can see it all along the Willamette Water Trail, which covers 187 miles of wonder along the mainstem Willamette River, as well as the Coast Fork Willamette, Middle Fork Willamette, and the McKenzie rivers.

So what is the Willamette Water Trail, anyway? Think of it as, well, a hiking trail—but on water. Instead of walking all those miles, you can paddle or float as much or as little of the Willamette River as you’d like; in-town landings and roughly 50 riverside campsites make it easy to plan a leisurely afternoon on the water or a fascinating multi-day adventure—whatever sounds fun and doable.

Before you hit the water, here’s a bit about what to expect, how to stay safe, and how to get started.

1. Learn about the Willamette River

  • Safety First  – Wear a life jacket be vigilant for underwater hazards (wood and rocks), and respect other river users.
      • Share the water: Listen for the occasional motorboat, and paddle closer together in groups when you hear a motorboat approaching. Motorboats need deeper water to safely operate and pass.
    • We invite you to prepare, care and connect – Take Care Out There.
    • Be sure to use the correct life jacket –  Life Jacket Information
  • Permits – All paddle craft 10 feet and longer are required to carry or display an Oregon State Marine Board Waterway Access Permit ($7 for a seven-day permit, available only through ODFW plus a $2 processing fee), $17 for an annual permit, $30 for a two-year permit). Youth under 14 are exempt and permits are transferrable to other watercraft. These permits help fund grants to develop or improve paddling access for boating facility providers and the aquatic invasive species prevention program co-managed by ODFW and the Marine Board. Paddling without a permit may lead to a $115 fine. Water Access Permit.
  • Private property along the river – Much of the river is bordered directly by private property. Respect private landowners by ensuring that you only leave the river onto public lands.
  • Leave No Trace – Follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out your trash and human waste, not building rock stacks (cairns) or campfire rings, and respecting wildlife by maintaining distance. Leave No Trace basic principles.

2. Plan your itinerary

3. Get your gear

  • Know what to take – be prepared to keep yourself safe and comfortable. Gear Checklist.
    • Get everything you need for a safe, fun river experience from the Corvallis-based outfitter—and with 20 boats available to rent, Peak Sports carries the right craft for any adventure.

While you’re in Albany…

Here are a few amenities we’d recommend for Water Trail travellers:


206 1/2 Historic Hotel

206 ½ is Albany’s only Historic Hotel, located in the heart of the downtown community. Perched atop Margin Coffee, this 7 bedroom boutique bed and breakfast boasts an amazing view of 2nd Ave SW and beyond.

204 Airbnb


Albany’s Historic Carousel and Museum
503 1st Ave W, Albany, OR 97321


Albany Saturday Farmers’ Market 4th Ave. & Ellsworth St. (541)740-1542 www.locallygrown.org
Brick & Mortar Cafe 222 1st Ave W (541)791-7845 https://www.brickandmortarcafe.com/
Calapooia Brewing Co. 140 Hill St. NE (541) 928-1931 https://www.calapooiabrewing.com/
Ciddici’s Pizza 133 5th Ave SE 541-928-2536 https://www.ciddicispizza.com/
Deluxe Brewing Company 635 NE Water Ave. Suites B & D 541-928-7699 https://www.sinisterdeluxe.com/
First Burger 210 W 1st Ave 541-704-1128 http://thefirstburger.com/
Frankie’s Restaurant 641 Hickory St. N.W. 541-248-3671 https://frankiesalbany.wpengine.com/
Gamberetti’s Italian Restaurant 211 First Ave W (541)497-2181 http://gamberettis.com/
Homegrown Oregon Foods 212 1st Ave Se (541) 971-7174 https://homegrownoregonfoods.com/
Honeybrine 315 Lyon St. (720) 238-1449 https://www.honeybrine-oregon.com/
Little Wuesten Café 115 SW Ellsworth St. (541)926-3988 https://www.facebook.com/Little-Wuesten-German-Foods-1017379428285959/
Loafer’s Station 222 SW Washington St 541-926-8183 https://www.facebook.com/LoafersStation/
Margin Coffee 206 Second Ave SW (541)248-3234 https://www.margincoffee.com/
Momiji 641 Hickory St SE 541-497-6013 https://momijiinc.com/
Natural Sprinkles Co. 202 2nd Ave. SW (541)666-0056 https://www.naturalsprinklesco.com/
No Rails Ale House 117 1st Ave NE (541) 497-2137 http://norailsalehouse.com/
Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant 208 2nd Ave SW 541-967-9488 http://www.novakshungarian.com/
Sinister Distilling 635 NE Water Ave. Suite B 541-639-4257 https://www.sinisterdeluxe.com/
Sweet Red Bistro 208 1st Ave W (541) 704-0510 https://www.sweetredwinebistro.com/
Sybaris Bistro 442 W. 1st Ave. (541) 928-8157 http://www.sybarisbistro.com
Taqueria Alonzo 250 SW Broadalbin St. #107 541-812-1311 http://www.alonzotaqueria.com/
The Barn at Hickory Station 640 Hickory St NW (541) 666-2974 https://www.facebook.com/thebarntaproom/
The Depot 822 Lyon St W 5419267326 http://depotrestaurantinc.com/
The Growler Garage & Tap House 229 3rd Ave SW (541)248-3542 https://thegrowlergaragealbany.com/
Tone Thai Cuisine 236 W 1st Ave. 541-248-3666 http://tonethai.com
Vault 244 Bistro & Lounge 244 1st Ave. W 541-791-9511 http://vault244.com/
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